Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Banfi Brunellos with IWFS at Cicchetti di Zenzero - nice!

Wednesday October 23rd 2019

This was another of those collaborations between the IWFS and AsiaEuro whereby the lovely Michelle invites us to a private event with the winemaker or a representative and we get to sample the good stuff and hopefully get a nice discount on any purchases. In the early stages of the dinner, sample appeared to be the operative word, with a half glass of each of the vertical wines being carefully poured from the bottle into the assembled glasses. But it did liven up once the dessert had been consumed and pouring got a touch more liberal. No complaints at the end of the evening. 

The notice to members shared that Castello Banfi owns an historic 45 hectare estate in Strevi, Piedmont named Banfi Piemonte. Its vineyards are located between the towns of Novi Ligure and Acqui Terme, in an area passionately dedicated to producing the renowned traditional wines of Piedmont. The winery, established in Strevi in 1860, was purchased by Banfi in the late 1970s to complete its Piedmont estate. The Banfi Piemonte portfolio boasts a wide range of products which includes unique sparkling wines, whites, and reds, all of them bearing the prestigious appellations of Piedmont. And that on the night we would experience a vertical tasting of Brunello di Montalcino vintages across 2009 to 2012. Yum.

Downside was that there would only be 40 seats available due to the small size of the restaurant. And all 40 got snapped up by the members within eighteen hours. It is frustrating when so many want to come yet the trend is increasingly for restaurants to only accept diminishing numbers of patrons. Apparently Chef was insistent in not increasing beyond forty - his place has a reputation and stressing the kitchen will necessarily impact. Smart man.

The website says that the Cicchetti (pronounced chee-keh-tee) di Zenzero focuses on "Andar a Cicchetti" which essentially translates to the Venetian version of Tapas - small savoury bites shared across a table with friends and family. Located on Jalan Puncak, which is the road that leads up to the KL Tower, it is the sister restaurant to the more traditional Italian cuisine at Zenzero up and across the road and which has made a good name amongst the KL foodies and bloggers, gaining favourable reports across the board (see https://www.theyumlist.net/2017/11/cicchetti-di-zenzero.html) 
The Cicchetti Bar
The website also notes that the Cicchetti Bar "has a uniquely warm and welcoming atmosphere, where an Ombra (a small glass of wine ) is traditionally served with Cicchetti" and that "Venetians consider this regular ritual essential to a person’s health and well-being, a bit of wisdom many of us are coming to embrace as well." Can't argue with that, eh?  

Lenglui and I and friend Kit were getting a ride for the night from friends who most kindly share their driver to both pick us up and deliver us all back home, meaning we can all have a good skinful. The drive to the place was surprisingly smooth and clear after the early evening rains with the result that we arrived way before the scheduled time for the popping of corks. Quite a number had already arrived, mostly through fear of massive jams coming into KL town and all professed equal surprise at the ease of the traffic. Never can tell. There was one blip where Waze took us up the wrong side street and this precipitated quite a large discussion as to what to do. Eventually the driver turned back and re-entered the main Jalan P Ramlee road and got us straight to the restaurant. Easy when you have researched the thing beforehand. 

Early research also indicated a distinct lack of parking, with advice to the effect of park on the road outside or in the Weld carpark across the road. Again, having a driver negates all this and we successfully alighted at the place. 
Some of the delightful Cicchetti
Eventually the fizz started pouring and there was a delightful spread of nibbles and bites on the bar section to accompany the bubbles. These were clearly the Cicchetti and most tasty they were too. Little pizza squares, bite size bits of doughy bread, pate on small baguette slices. Quite dangerous in filling terms ahead of our dinner, though in retrospect we could have scarfed much more as the four course repast would prove slightly deficient in the amounts on the plates. No bad thing - what it lacked in size it would make up in power. 

The Tener fizz (a NV blend of Chard and SB grapes) was nicely fruity and light and made for a good partner with the nibbles. Though I did note that some of the bibbers stopped after two flutes. Presumably saving space for the reds. I also stopped but then someone at the bar handed me a fresh one. I must have looked thirsty. 
Waiting for the off...
Everyone eventually got seated (though not totally according to my seating plan - everyone on the right tables but some decided to sit differently) and President May gave a speech of welcome and it was get stuck in. A solitary glass of white Vermentino accompanied the Burratina cheese (which looked and tasted a lot like Buffalo Mozzarella) and was all that we would get with it (apart from the house water which felt like free flow). It was a pretty looking dish, full of fresh things and combos that should have gone well together; somehow it all mashed up and slurped down with little in the way of celebration on the table. For me, there seemed to be a tasty match between something balsamic and something honey mustard - the menu doesn't mention it, but it certainly felt more this taste and less Trio Pesto. 
Banfi boy Luca explaining the wines

The wine felt light yet firm and stood up well to the food. The notes speak of "intense fruit forward bouquet of exotic fruit and spices... crisp with well balanced acidity and clean finish." I got apricot and banana which disappeared on contact with food and gave way to a clean gunk cutting mouth and indeed a fresh finish. 

As soon as the white had been swilled, the gannet like staff swiftly pinched the empty glasses off the table whilst we were not looking and brought out the first two reds to pacify the likes of me who like to keep the glass on the table to see how the wine progresses through the evening. Lenglui is presently off the whites so I inherited her pretty much full glass of the Vermentino. 

Which was quite fortuitous as it went extremely and surprisingly well with the Tagliatelle - something about the seven egg yolks and the salt in the cheese and ragu popped the cork delightfully. Very versatile wine. The tagliatelle was very good - firm bite and chew and the earthy mushroom ragout had taste and verve - good dish and pair.

Wish the same could be said for the pairings of the two Brunellos (should the plural be Brunelli?) on show. The 2012 was young and frisky whilst the 2011 was earthy and a bit farmyard on the nose. Texture wise, the 2012 was quite light whilst the 2011 was firm and tending to tannic. As an exercise in vintage contrasts the combo was instructive. Whether they were long term in the bottle (my usual litmus test), on this showing I would not have said so. 
Lot of glasses, eh? 
Which made for interesting conversation with the Banfi reps, who shared that on the previous nights dinner the 2011 shone - 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2012 appeared to be the order of favourite tipple. Though in fairness this should only be straw poll - the food, restaurant, tastes of the punters all go into the mix with the result that ultimately no one is correct save the individual drinker. For me, would have needed a refill in the glass which was not forthcoming - again the gannets were keen and eager to steal the empties. 

Though the Moss seemed to have fortune on his side. As I was approaching him to clink a glass, one of the attendees swept across the floor with a full glass and deposited the thing in front of him. I was unable to contain my reaction of "bastard..." as he gleefully supped on the thing. Some guys have all the luck, eh?
Burratina with Trio of Pesto
The next two vintages proved equally at variance, with the 2009 feeling quite mature and developed (ie drinking now) and the 2010 being the star of the night with its full velvet texture and firm tannins hinting of a good few more years to mature and develop into a stunner. Very tasty Brunello. 

I opted for the Lamb Shank Ossobucco and was pleasantly surprised at the full taste on the thing. Rich tasty jus, full of vim and grip, and soaked up well by the wonderfully light and chewy polenta. Good dish, would come back for this one. Though hopefully there would be a bit more on the plate next time - three smallish lumps seemed a bit thin for the price being paid. Seemed some of the others did not rate the lamb too highly - there you go...
Seven Egg Yolk Tagliatelle
Wine wise, the 2009 fared quite well, with a sweetish note countering the fire of the lamb jus and meat. The 2010 got tamed tannin wise by the jus. Those who had saved a bit of the previous might have found the 2012 matching nicely - youth versus the tender meat - whilst the earthy 2011 made for a somewhat different but no less pleasant pairing. Brunello is definitely a meat wine, clearly needing firm and full bites in the mouth to have something to stand up against. As usual, I have no memory of dessert. My only memory is that a new bottle of 2009 was brought to the table which quickly got sucked down. 
Lamb Shank Ossobucco
I did a bit of schmoozing and wafted from table to table. On one was a full set of untouched reds; seemed the member was a bit off the reds for the moment and opted to have some whiskey instead. I was invited to redeem this sinful wastage and grabbed (fortuitously) the 2010. I do hate to see good booze being left undrunk. 
At this time the room started to empty and, whether there was a connection or whether it was preordained, another bottle miraculously appeared. I managed to secure a final slug before getting called to the carriage to be transported home. Nice evening, feeling very mellow.
Lenglui with AsiaEuro's Michelle
Overall, I'd go back to the Cichetti on this showing, though where to park the car would be a brain breaker. Food was tasty, good selection of wines on show, and the ambiance is delightful. Somewhere to go for a romantic date. There is corkage, though word of mouth is that if you show your IWFS Card you get 50% off. Of the wines, Michelle emailed to say some are available for sale. I have put my order in for the 2010 and some Vermentino. Hope they come through (they did!). Cheers!!

Pre - Dinner
Selections of Cicchetti at the Bar
Wine Pairing
Tener Spumante Brut Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc NV
Burratina with Trio of Pesto
Heirloom Tomatoes Salad, Capers, Capers Powder, Basil Oil,
Trio Pesto; Olives, Eggplant & Artichokes (Vegetarian)
Wine Pairing
La Pettegola Vermentino IGT 2018
First Course 
Homemade Pasta
7 Egg Yolks Tagliatelle
Mixed Wild Mushroom Ragù & Gorgonzola Cheese
Wine Pairing
Poggio alle Mura Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2011 & 2012
Main Course
Lamb Shank Ossobuco
Oven Braised served with Soft Polenta 
Free Range Chicken Roulade
Filled with Spinach & Ricotta Cheese, Mashed Pumpkin, Broccoli, Toast Macadamia & Shallots Red Wine Sauce
Wine Pairing
Poggio alle Mura Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2009 & 2010
Lingue di Gatto con Cioccolato
Biscuit Cones Filled with Dark Chocolate Mousse Orange Sauce & Orange Salad
The Wines
A special cuvée of Sauvignon Blanc (50%) and Chardonnay, Tener represents the ideal marriage between the vineyard experience of the Montalcino Tuscany estate and the great sparkling wine tradition of Banfi Piemonte cellars in Strevi, Piedmont. Produced in the Méthode Charmat in stainless steel at 16-18° C using yeasts selected for optimal varietal aromas.

Color: pale straw, aboundant mousse, exquisite perlage. 
Bouquet: intense and fruity, with light hints of peach. 
Taste: dry, harmonious and soft on the palate.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES The special blend is exceptionally made with selected high quality Sauvignon Blanc grapes, very seldom used to produce sparkling wines. Tener brut is round, very aromatic, and deliciously tasty. Ideal as an aperitif as well as a companion to seafood and white meats.

La Pettegola, the new Banfi’s Vermentino, is crafted selecting the best grapes from the Tuscan coast. It is a wine pleasantly intense, sweet, fresh and light that recalls the perfumes of the Mediterranean scrub and expresses the winning combination of tradition and innovation that, since ever, moves the Banfi experience in the world of Tuscan wine.

Color: pale yellow.
Bouquet: very fruity, with notes of apricot, grapefruit, flowers and spices typical of the Mediterranean scrub. 
Taste: full-bodied, with a lively acidity which gives freshness and persistency in the final.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES Most recent white wine born at Banfi, La Pettegola is characterized by its aromatic expression, rich and delicate, as well as for its lively acidity. Ideal for accompanying fish dishes, sea fruit and vegetarian first courses.

From dedicated vineyards sloping down from the historic Poggio alle Mura Castle crowning our estate. We chose this patch of land, particularly suited to grow Brunello Sangiovese, to plant the first vineyard resulting from over a decade of research to isolate the optimal selection of clones to produce consistently outstanding Brunello di Montalcino. The vines were planted in 1992. Altitude: 210-220 meters above sea level. Position: Hillside.
SOIL TYPE Yellowish brown color, sandy topsoil, coarse, calcareous; substract of sea sediment originating from the Pliocene age. Abundant rounded rocks.
GRAPE VARIETIES 100% Sangiovese, from a combination of estate selected clones.
PRODUCTION TECHNIQUE The grape harvest is followed by a maceration of 12-13 days. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in In temperature - controlled hybrid stainless steel & wood tanks (27-29°C). About 90% of the wine is aged for 2 years in French oak barriques - manufactured according to Banfi’s specifications - and the remaining 10% in Slavonian oak casks. Before release, the wine is bottle-aged for an additional 12 months.

Colour: mauve red, intense and very deep. 
Bouquet: complex, but immediately captivating, fresh and sweet; with essences of plum, cherry, blackberry and raspberry jam combined with hints of chocolate, cigar box, vanilla and licorice. 
Taste: muscular and toned, surprising combination of power and softness, with sweet and gentle tannins.

WINEMAKER’S NOTES The first result of more than two decades of experimental research, Poggio alle Mura is a superb example of the best synthesis of terroir, selection and technological innovation. Estate-bottled from the splendid sun drenched vineyard adjacent to the Castello this Brunello encompasses a full body and complexity unique to the genre. Ideal accompaniment to red meat, savory game, and aged cheeses. A wine for meditative contemplation, capable of long-term aging.

Cicchetti di Zenzero, Lot AG1 Amplewest@Menara 6, 
No. 6, Jalan Puncak, 50250 Kuala Lumpur                
Tel +603 2022 2899

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